High School Reading Performance

Average reading performance of 12-th grade students

Compared to elementary and middle school students, high schoolers have shown more consistency in reading assessments over the last 20 years.

  • The average 12th-grade student scored 285 points on the reading assessment test in 2019 provided by NAEP, the last reading assessment conducted for this age group.
  • This is 2 points lower compared to the previous assessment conducted in 2015 and 3 points lower compared to assessments from 2013 and 2009.
  • 12th graders had the worst average results on reading tests over the last 20 years.
  • However, differences are not huge – students had 1.09% lower scores compared to 2009 and were 0.7% below the 2002 level.
YearAverage scoreChange
2019285-0.70%
2015287-0.35%
20132880.00%
20092880.70%
2005286-0.35%
2002287
vs.2009-1.04%
vs. 2002-0.70%
  • 30% of students attending 12th grade were below the basic reading comprehension levels according to NAEP’s standards in 2019.
  • This is the biggest share of students below the basic level over the past 20 years and the first time the figure went above 30%.
  • In comparison, in 2013, 25% of 12th graders were below the basic comprehension levels.
  • 36% of students performed at or above the proficient reading comprehension level in 2019, on par with the previous assessment conducted in 2015.
Yearbelow BasicBasicProficientAdvanced
201930.00%33.00%31.00%6.00%
201528.00%35.00%31.00%6.00%
201325.00%37.00%32.00%5.00%
200926.00%36.00%33.00%5.00%
200527.00%37.00%31.00%5.00%
200226.00%38.00%31.00%5.00%

Reading performance of 12th grade students by gender

  • The average male student attending 12th grade scored 279 points on the last reading assessment test, 6 points below the average for this age.
  • Female students averaged 292 points during this assessment, making them 4.66% better than male students.
  • This is the biggest difference between the two genders across all school ages assessed by NAEP.
  • The difference between female and male 12th graders’ reading performance is the biggest since 2005.
  • Both genders performed slightly worse on the last reading assessment compared to the previous years – females are 0.68% below the 2009 levels and males are 1.06% under.
  • 35% of male students in the 12th grade are below the basic levels of reading comprehension according to NAEP’s assessment test as of 2019.
  • On the other hand, only 24% of females are below the basic level. Still, this is the most female students below the basic level over the last 20 years.
  • The share of female 12th grade students performing at or above the proficient reading comprehension levels is 43%, the most since 2009.
  • Male students attending 12th grade performed at or above the proficient reading levels in 32% of cases, which is the least since 2009.
MaleFemale
Yearbelow BasicBasicProficientAdvancedbelow BasicBasicProficientAdvanced
201935.00%33.00%27.00%5.00%24.00%33.00%35.00%8.00%
201532.00%35.00%28.00%5.00%24.00%34.00%34.00%8.00%
201330.00%37.00%29.00%4.00%21.00%37.00%35.00%7.00%
200931.00%36.00%29.00%4.00%20.00%36.00%37.00%7.00%
200533.00%38.00%26.00%3.00%22.00%37.00%35.00%6.00%
200233.00%39.00%26.00%2.00%20.00%37.00%37.00%7.00%

Reading performance of 12th grade students by race and ethnicity

  • Similar to reading assessments of 4th and 8th graders, students of 12th grade with Asian origin performed the best on the tests, averaging 299 points.
  • Students of mixed races and White students averaged 295 points, tied for second place.
  • On the other hand, Black students in 12th grade averaged 272 points on reading assessment tests, the lowest score among all major races and ethnicities.
  • Asian and Hispanic students are the only groups that increased their performance on reading tests over the last 10 and 20 years, while others showed a slight decline.
  • American Indian/Alaska Native students had the biggest drop over the last 10 years with 3.89%, while Black students faced the biggest 20-year decline with 1.50%.
YearWhiteBlackHispanicAsian/Pacific IslanderAmerican Indian/Alaska NativeTwo or more races
2019295263274299272295
2015295266276297279295
2013297268276296277291
2009296269274298283298
2005293267272287279283
2002292267273286289
  • 50.00% of Black students attending 12th grade were below the basic level of NAEP’s reading assessment standards as of 2019, the most among all races and ethnicities.
  • This was the first time that one group has 50% of its student below the basic comprehension levels when it comes to reading assessment.
  • Additionally, around 41.00% of American Indian/Alaska Native students in the 12th grade were below the basic reading levels in the assessment test conducted in 2019.
  • On the other hand, 49.00% of Asian students were at or above the proficient reading level on the assessment tests, the most since 2005.